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Fbi added opinions to statements { June 3 2003 }

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Report: FBI added assumptions, opinions to sworn statements

Associated Press

June 3, 2003

MANCHESTER, Conn. -- The former FBI head of a state fugitive task force was censured for falsifying information in affidavits, according to documents obtained by the Journal Inquirer after a four-year Freedom of Information Act struggle.

Three other agents received disciplinary actions ranging from censure to "counseling," but there were no criminal charges filed as a result of the FBI's internal review, the newspaper said Monday.

The FBI turned over more than 400 pages of documents after reporter Alex Wood sued the bureau in federal court. Four FOI requests for documents concerning the Connecticut Violent Crimes Fugitive Task Force were rejected before the suit was filed.

The documents show that the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility concluded Special Agent Ralph A. DiFonzo swore to assumptions and opinions while supervising the task force, which was a joint effort of local, state and federal investigators.

"An almost-casual reliance upon assumptions and inferences resulted in the inclusion of inaccurate statements" in several of the seven affidavits examined, an FBI review panel determined.

"This practice reflects an apparently lax approach to fact-gathering during the preparation of the affidavits," the panel said.

Michael J. Wolf, special agent in charge of the FBI in Connecticut, said Monday the problems detailed in the reports showed procedural failures, not intentional misrepresentation.

Despite the flaws in the reports, he said, six of the seven of subjects of the arrest warrants were located where the warrants said they were.

The investigation arose from allegations by three state inspectors that FBI agents made false statements on arrest-warrant affidavits in 1994 and 1996.

The case later prompted a lawsuit against then-Chief State's Attorney John Bailey, who had ordered his state employees not to discuss the matter with the media. In November 1998 a federal judge found Bailey's order a violation of the First Amendment.

The OPR panel found no evidence DiFonzo or other agents knowingly falsified documents, but raised concerns over statements for which no agent has taken responsibility.

In one case, agents attributed information to a fugitive's family when it actually came thirdhand from Glastonbury police. Such hearsay evidence is acceptable in affidavits, but the source must be fully detailed.

In other examples, DiFonzo drafted affidavits then gave them to other agents to sign and file in their names. That made it impossible for federal overseers to figure out who amended one warrant application, which had previously lacked attribution for one key statement.

The state FBI office has since established an internal review process, Wolf said.

In addition to censure, DiFonzo was put on probation for six months, the documents show. The newspaper said the names of the disciplined agents were removed from documents outlining the punishments - except for a handful of apparent oversights involving DiFonzo - but not from documents about the investigation.

The newspaper said that by comparing the documents it had identified the other agents disciplined as Lisa Bull, who received a letter of censure; Todd Brophy, who received an oral reprimand; and Victor Treadway, who was counseled about the need to fully understand any document he signed.

The Journal Inquirer said DiFonzo, Bull, Brophy and Treadway did not respond to requests for comment. Messages were left at the FBI office Monday seeking comment from Bull and Treadway; Brophy is no longer with stationed in Connecticut and there was no telephone listing for DiFonzo, who has retired.

Wolf said in a statement that the office does not view the OPR finding that there was no deliberate misrepresentation as "an exoneration." Any such mistakes reflect poorly on the FBI, he said.

Copyright 2003, The Associated Press

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